You know this story
It was the first night that I consciously experienced a panic attack.
I am sure it happened in the past, but this was the first time I could track it and knew what was going on. I was trying to sleep because I taught in the morning, and fear just… ricocheted through my entire body. It felt like waves of frightened contractions from my skin to my muscles to my bone, from my feet up to my head. My thoughts whirled. My breath was shallow and sharp.
I used my breathing techniques, I told myself it was going to be okay, I tried to relax my legs and feet, I tried to write about it, but nothing worked. It went on for hours and hours. It was so uncomfortable that I just tossed and turned and tossed and turn, wide awake...
I'm a yogi, so it shouldn't be this hard, right?
Around 5 in the morning I texted a friend, then called her, and told her what was happening. I asked if she could teach for me that morning. She declined using some weak excuse. I understood. I mean who wants to teach on a Saturday morning? I showed up to teach, literally feeling the circles under my eyes, my energy still buzzing, and she showed up to take my class (wtf?). That should've been my first red flag. Friends don’t let friends have panic attacks at night and then say they can’t help out, and THEN come to the class to benefit themselves.
Almost a year later, I found out about some slimy things this “friend” was doing, specifically with the people I was having panic attacks about — ouch… I’ll spare you the rest of the details, because
you know this story.
You’ve heard your friends go through it, or you’ve been through it, or you’re going through it. Here is what’s important: at some point in your life, shit’s going to go down. People who you love will betray you, or you will lose them in a painful way, or you will lose your job, or you’ll come face-to-face with a life-threatening disease, or you’ll experience deep trauma.
This, my friends, is the raw and poetic thing we call LIFE, and luckily, yoga is here to help. But yoga is NOT a soothing gel that temporarily brings comfort. The yoga I study promises to permenantly remove ignorance and suffering; it promises both spiritual liberation and the total enjoyment of our material life. So, while we inevitably go through these devastating chapters, what does yoga have to teach us that forever shifts how we approach our lives? This blog series is about
how to find your footing in the thick of the pain and suffering.
The practices that most resemble modern day yoga began during the Shramana movement around 600 BCE. The Shramana’s were a collection of people (seekers) faced with seemingly meaningless social obligations and politics, and a near constant onslaught of fear and death. They were forced to make a living for themselves in a stratified urban society where there were marginalized people, and the “haves” and the “have-nots.” They sought to reject man-made constructs and find the true meaning of life (1, 2).
I imagine those people lived with panic attacks, too. I imagine some people got ahead while others didn’t, and that felt like shit. I imagine that people lost people they loved, or were betrayed by people they love, because
even a few thousand years ago people were still people.
What we are challenged to do, as modern day yoga practitioners, is see if the yoga philosophy we study holds itself up, despite social and cultural norms, trauma, and the painful experiences in our lives. Lucky for us, many yoga teachings were birthed out of times of conflict and questions like: Why is life so hard? What’s the point of all this?
The Bhagavad Gita, one of yoga’s most studied texts, is a story about brothers going to war with each other over greed, spite, and betrayal. There are feelings of grief, hopelessness, and frustration. The bulk of the story is a conversation with an enlightened being about what to do when faced with choices that have no possible happy ending. What we learn, among many other things in this text, is that being passive can, at times, be just as counter-productive as being proactive (3). The divine tells the warrior:
He who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among people.
The yoga teachings were made for these moments of conflict, and if we use conflict as a portal to awareness, we can learn the most about reality, liberation, and our true essence nature. We can maybe, just maybe, permenantly remove ignorance and suffering. We can weather storms and emerge more loving and compassionate than ever.
I look back at this chapter in my life with gratefulness now. With time and reflection, I realized that the universe was conspiring for my awakening, and I was in the heat of the storm. All of my weakness and shadows were on the cusp of being revealed and shattered, and in the following weeks, I’m sharing a series of blog posts explore the three main yoga teachings that helped me move through the hurt:
We co-create our reality
We are already whole, complete, and perfect
Ignorance is the core of our suffering
Before I leave you today, still possibly brooding and hurting, Here are some questions to ponder as you wade into healing: what actions (or inactions) are you taking? In your heart-mind? In your body? In your energetic field? What discerns a “right” action from a “wrong” action?
Journal about it. Post about it. Tag us (@thecraft.love), and let us know your reflections. Or don’t. How you heal is your journey and no one else’s.
Be kind to yourselves, loves, and I’ll see you next week.
sources referenced in this article:
Christopher Hareesh Wallis on The Origins of Yoga - youtube interview
The Origins of Yoga & Tantra; Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century - Geoffry Samuel
The Yoga Tradition by George Feuerstein